Fields like this don’t happen every day, and this year the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes could be a race for the ages
What promises to be a very special edition of the G1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes is in play with Love, Adayar and Mishriff all set to line up for Ascot’s midsummer highlight on Saturday, July 24. The winner of the race will earn an expenses-paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Turf this fall at Del Mar as part of the win and you’re in program.
Having carried all before her in three starts last season, including a nine-length demolition in the Oaks at Epsom Downs, Love (Aidan O’Brien) returned with a game success in the G1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot. Fillies have an excellent recent record in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes, following the exploits of three-time winner Enable, Taghrooda and Danedream.
Adayar (Charlie Appleby) is aiming to bridge a 20-year gap for Derby winners in the 12-furlong showpiece, with no horse doing the double since Galileo in 2001. In this period, three Derby winners have contested the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes during their Classic campaigns, with Kris Kin faring best in third in 2003.
The other contender from the Classic generation is Lone Eagle (Martyn Meade), who was narrowly denied by Adayar’s stablemate Hurricane Lane in the G1 Irish Derby at the Curragh on 26th June.
Leading 4-year-old Mishriff (John & Thady Gosden) is likely to take his chance after pleasing connections since his comeback third in the G1 Coral-Eclipse at Sandown Park on 3rd July. That was his first start since recording a memorable big-race double in the Saudi Cup on dirt and G1 Dubai Sheema Classic on turf earlier in the year.
Ted Voute, racing manager to owner Prince Faisal, said today: “I talked to John after Mishriff worked on Saturday and John was very happy with him. It has very much been left up to John where he runs next and, having discussed it with the Prince, Ascot looks the likely target.
“I thought Mishriff was a bit gassy at Sandown in the first half of the race, which happens to a lot of horses after some time off, and I just wondered whether he needed a race under his belt to get him spot on. He seemed to run very well backing up from Saudi to Dubai.
“St Mark’s Basilica is clearly a very good horse and I think it is going to take a very good horse to beat Love on Saturday. We want to win a Group 1 in England with Mishriff and you can’t win one unless you run in them. He has beaten some very good horses from around the world and now is the time to see what he can do against the big battalions from England and Ireland in particular.”
The nine confirmations also include last year’s G1 QIPCO Champion Stakes winner Addeybb (William Haggas) and fellow British Champions Day scorer Wonderful Tonight (David Menuisier), who defeated the boys in the G2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot on her reappearance.
Love’s trainer Aidan O’Brien is responsible for the three remaining entries, with the star filly joined by Group 1 scorers Broome, Japan and Mogul.
Trainers William Muir and Chris Grassick have been forced to scratch stable star Pyledriver from the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes due to a setback.
Pyledriver was a leading fancy following a hugely popular first G1 success in the Coronation Cup at Epsom Downs on 5th June.
Speaking to the media in Lambourn Monday morning, Muir said: “We did exactly the same as before the Coronation Cup; we went over to Charlie’s [Hills] gallops and Martin [Dwyer] rode him, he was delighted with him, he went magnificently. It was not a hard piece of work, but the way he came through it was fantastic. I walked off the gallops thinking, ‘It will take a good horse to stop this’.
“I walked across to meet him coming across the road, he was bouncing and bobbing and kicking, I thought then this horse has never been better, I couldn’t have him better. Martin came back and said, ‘He is in such a good place’.
“He was washed down, put in the box, he had a roll, everything was fine, he never took a funny step anywhere, then in the evening my head girl rung me, I was at Newbury races, and said, ‘Pyledriver is just not quite right on his off hind’.
“My vet came out while I was still at Newbury, and he felt that he was sore up in the groin area and we were thinking could he have pulled his groin?
“The vet then came out again on Sunday morning and there is obviously pain there.
“We are hoping it is a groin injury, but we are going to make sure we don’t leave any stone unturned. So we will X-ray his tibia, if there is nothing there, we will scan his pelvis, I don’t think it is, but it will put my mind at rest. Then we can go from there and will know it is soft tissue.
“You can’t have any setback to win a Group 1, in fact, forget Pyledriver, if there is any setback, even if it is the lowest-rated horse in the yard, I won’t run the horse if there is any doubt in my mind.
“I am not going to put the horse under pressure. If it is something simple, and we will know in three days, we will wait and go to the Juddmonte International.
“If it is something that we need to give him four to five weeks, then he will have his break and go to some of those races at the end of season [the Arc, the Breeders’ Cup, the Japan Cup], there are so many options.
“The worst thing is if you don’t take notice of what you’ve got now then all of a sudden you’ve got a serious problem. I can’t take any chances with any horse. I am always cautious, more than anything else. It is very slight and he has never taken a lame step in his life. I am gutted to be honest.
“I know Love is very good, but she might have fallen in love with Pyledriver after Saturday! I’d have taken anything on. When he came off the gallops, I promise you I thought, ‘Whatever beats him will win’.
“I thought he’d win it, to be honest, I really did. I know they are great horses, the Derby winner is a very good horse, probably one of the best; I am not even going to be part of it anymore, it is tough.
“I have never been so excited about a race, Saturday morning I was doing somersaults coming off the gallops. That evening it was just a strain driving back from Newbury, have I slept since? Not really.
“It looks a fantastic race. Love is a great filly. The Derby winner was mightily impressive, but the ground is going to be different than Epsom; the ground wouldn’t have worried me.
“We have had a great run with him, not just this year, as a two-year-old, three-year-old and now. We will return. He will stay in training next year – we can go back for the King George next year!”
Ascot anticipates a crowd of 14,000 for QIPCO King George Diamond Day following the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions.
Nick Smith, Director of Racing and Public Affairs at Ascot, said: “We will probably be at half capacity for the King George. We are expecting something around 14,000 or 15,000 depending on how sales go this week.
“We have had a very short sales window in terms of the final confirmation restrictions would be lifted on 19th July and actually being able to proactively market the race.
“It is looking like being a vintage running of the race, and if the weather holds it should be a fantastic day and we’d love as many people as possible to come.
“This is what the King George is all about. It’s a real shame that Pyledriver has come out and we hope he is back on track soon, but it sounds like Mishriff will run now and if the others stand their ground, then we will have the race of the season, which is what it should be. We are looking forward to it.”
Edited Press Release
Megan Ridgwell Photo Love wins at Royal Ascot